By Kadeem Joseph
While Ministry of Health officials in Antigua and Barbuda have projected that local distribution of the controversial Covid-19 vaccine will begin in March/April of 2021, some citizens who are residents of the United States have already begun receiving the newly developed inoculation.
Among scores of residents in the diaspora who have opted to take the injection is the operations chief for the Austin, Texas, Covid-19 vaccine distribution, Raisa Charles, and she is making an impassioned plea to residents to consider availing themselves of the new resource when it becomes available to them.
“When the vaccine becomes available to Antiguans and Barbudans, I would definitely encourage them to get it. It could be the difference between life and death,” she said. “I think it’s a community effort and we need to get the vaccine, not only for our health, but for the health of the people we love,” she said.
Charles, who is a public health educator with Austin Public Health’s immunisation programme, was assigned to a Covid-19 testing site and had a first-hand look at the struggles of the people, while noting the “hundreds of thousands of lives lost” and the resulting economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
But, for her, the vaccine symbolises hope.
“Hope for no more lives lost, hope for society to return to normal, just hope for a brighter future,” she added.
Charles said that she was not particularly concerned about taking the vaccine because she did her own research and, after reviewing the trials, she determined that the inoculation was safe, the efficacy was high enough and therefore “worth taking”.
While many are fearful of possible side effects with the new shot, the public health official, who received the injection on December 29, said she only experienced “a little soreness at the injection site but it subsided after a day or so”.
Austin, Texas, is presently at a Stage 5 threat level, which is the highest level on their scale. The medical director there has said if the state continues on its present trajectory, there will be no more available hospital beds within a week to a week and a half.